You may recall that last year I wrote about NationBuilder and published a noisy podcast with the company’s Mike Moschella and Edward Rawlinson.
NationBuilder is the premier online organizing tool for campaigns (of all sorts, not just political) and it figured prominently, again, in the speaking program at the annual Manning Networking Conference. The aforementioned Mike participated in two sessions: one focused on technological innovations in campaign strategy and tactics, and the second on building a self-sustaining fundraising system.
Before launching into some key points Mike raised, let me come clean and declare I am a fan of NationBuilder. My company uses it on client projects and I’ve used it on some personal projects. In all cases we’ve barely scratched the surface of what NationBuilder allows campaign teams to do.
Mike shared a barrage of very valuable information and ideas, seven points in each of his two presentations. Rather than give away his full talks (which you can relive if you go through the slew of tweets I issued during both sessions), let me compress his 14 ideas into three critical themes.
Innovation is evolutionary
Explosive change is rare. In fact, most exceptional innovation really comes about when someone brings together a number of discreet ongoing developments and makes them work as a unit. The problem with innovation is many organizations don’t do innovation incrementally. Which is probably why, as Mike notes, we still receive shitty newsletters, have to interact with obsolete/dysfunctional websites and why organizations flounder when they keep their data in silos.
Relationships must be human
Most neighbours build relationships one step at a time, through a series of interactions. that begin by meeting, finding a common interest, having a barbeque, then asking for help. Politics, as Mike notes, doesn’t do things that way. Campaign teams often rush to the ask using stiff language or “sloganeering.” Most young volunteers who favour social media will sieze up when tasked with using a phone to connect with supporters. (Shameless plug: for more on humanizing digital interactions, buy my book.)
Success is rooted in culture
Many years ago Mike discovered (by accident, it turns out) that an organizational goal (like fundraising) can become a self-sustaining machine if the system is properly designed. In his example, a program designed to groom civic entrepreneurs into civic leaders adopted an alumni system which encouraged graduates to fundraise to support the program the next round of newcomers. The newcomers were made aware that the opportunity existed for them based on the efforts of those who came before. This wasn’t just social proof, this was creating a culture that looked out for itself. The culture was so strong, the team that developed the system was able to relax and focus on innovating the advancement of the leadership program.
I interviewed Mike earlier today. Look for the audio to be published in the coming weeks.